The Charlotte Checkers aren’t going to the American Hockey League playoffs when the regular season ends in two weeks.
But they’re trying to approach the last games of the season with that level of urgency, says center Brody Sutter.
“We want to end the season on a good effort, even if that’s not going to be rewarded in the playoffs,” said Sutter, who scored the game-winning goal in the second period of a 2-1 Checkers victory over the Oklahoma City Barons on Friday night in front of 7,008 fans at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Chad LaRose scored a short-handed goal for Charlotte (29-35-6-1), which bounced back from a 3-2 overtime loss to the Barons (38-24-5-3) here on Thursday and ended a three-game losing streak.
“We just talked about coming out and giving a solid effort,” Checkers coach Jeff Daniels said. “You want to play well, no matter where you sit in the standings. In these last games we’re trying to keep it fresh and keep everybody motivated.”
Charlotte got an early boost from LaRose’s shorthanded breakaway, his 18th goal of the season, which came 5 minutes and 3 seconds into the game on an assist from Patrick Brown.
“That gave us a little spark and was a good way to start the game,” Daniels said.
Oklahoma City, which had lost seven straight before Thursday’s victory, tied the game on Joshua Winquist’s goal at the 4:47 mark of the second period, converting a pass that teammate Ryan Hamilton put right on his stick blade at the edge of the crease.
Sutter netted the eventual game-winner with a rising slap shot from the top edge of the right circle at the 12:21 mark of the period.
“I was pretty fortunate,” Sutter said. “I just threw it on the net near the end of my shift. You take goals and wins any way you can at this point.”
But the Checkers had to survive a scoreless third period in which goaltender John Muse, who stopped 28 shots on his own, got a little help when two Oklahoma City shots clanged off a goalpost.
They also had to kill a 6-on-4 Barons power play in the final minute.